Chunky Kabocha Soup with Appeal

chunky-kabocha-soup-with-appeal

Kabocha squash has a delicious green peel.  My friend Randi turned me on to kabocha soup with chunks of squash with the peel. We cut it up and roasted it with the peel immersed in a 1/2 inch water bath until it was tender. This recipe can be made vegan with vegetable stock.

Makes about 1 gallon.

Ingredients:

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1 medium kabocha squash

1 small piece of ginger root, grated to make 2 tsp (more if you really like it gingery)

2 teaspoons coconut oil, divided

14 oz. can coconut milk

1 quart (4 cups) broth (chicken or vegetable stock)

a few grinds black pepper

1 tsp salt to taste

about 1/4 cup of roasted green pumpkin seeds (pepitas) for garnish

Preheat oven to 350′

cutting-stem-off-kabochaRinse off Kabocha and dry with paper towel. Cut off the stem.

Cut the squash in half and remove seeds. Cut squash into about 16 pieces. cut-kabocha-in-water-bathPlace in 8″ x 11″ x 2″ pan and fill pan with 1/2 inch water.

Sprinkle with 1 tsp melted coconut oil.

Roast for 45 minutes until squash is tender.

Let cool, then cut into bite-sized pieces.

While squash is cooling, grate ginger, discarding fibrous part. Saute it in 1 tsp coconut oil in a gallon size heavy pot.

After a minute, add broth and coconut milk and bring to a boil.

bite-sized-pieces-of-squashAdd the small pieces of squash to the broth. Stir in pepper.

Bring to a boil, then simmer for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally to break up the softened squash into the broth. Add salt to taste.

Serve topped with roasted pepitas.

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Coconut Pancakes

coconut pancakes
These tender, delicious pancakes are made with coconut milk, shredded coconut and coconut oil. If you can find coconut sugar, you can use it to sweeten them.
Coconut oil is all the rage, and my son Francisco talked me into buying some. Now he says “Sounds like you’re going kookoo for coco!” While I wouldn’t fry eggs it in, (I tried – weird), it’s excellent in pancakes. Because it has a high smoke point, you can fry your pancakes in coconut oil without it burning the way butter does. To retain the coconut flavor and have the pancakes golden brown, cook them on medium heat.

Makes approximately 10 medium pancakes

coconut pancake ingredients

Ingredients:
2 eggs, well beaten
1 cup canned coconut milk (use low fat coconut milk to cut calories)
¾ cup finely ground whole wheat flour (aka white whole wheat flour)
1 Tb baking powder
¼ tsp salt
1 tsp sugar or coconut sugar
¼ cup unsweetened shredded coconut
2 Tb coconut oil

Beat coconut milk with eggs. Sift in flour, baking powder, salt and sugar. Mix with wooden spoon just until dry ingredients are incorporated. Stir in shredded coconut.
Heat coconut oil in heavy skillet over medium heat, just until melted. Stir oil into the batter. Pour large spoonfuls of batter onto skillet. Turn when bubbles begin to form and edges begin to dry. Add a little bit of coconut oil before frying each batch.

Serve with fresh fruit, a tad of maple syrup and a bit of coconut oil if you like.

Buñuelos

My favorite New Year’s Eve memories include one spent with my in-laws in a small country town in South Texas. We went to the Knights of Columbus hall, where we joined couples of all ages dancing in a big circle to Mexican polkas and boleros. The men wore cowboy hats and the women danced in high heels. Most of the songs were about love, but I remember a few about chickens.
When we came back to the house, my mother-in-law, Conchita, fried up delicious buñuelos; orange and cinnamon scented flour tortillas rolled in cinnamon sugar. We’ve made them every New Year’s morning since.

This year I added orange zest to the dough to amp up the flavor and fried them in coconut oil instead of canola oil. They were the best ever!

Makes 15 buñuelos

Cinnamon powder, divided. 1 tsp for dough and 1 Tb for coating

Sugar, divided. 1 tsp for dough and ½ cup for coating

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 Tb baking powder

1/4 tsp baking soda

2 Tb butter at room temperature

½ cup orange juice from one large orange

Finely grated zest from one large orange – approximately 1/2 tsp

1 cup coconut oil for frying

Mix 1 Tb cinnamon and 1/2 cup sugar in a shallow dish for coating the buñuelos and set aside.

Sift flour, baking powder, 1 tsp cinnamon and 1 tsp sugar in a large bowl and whisk well. Mix in butter and orange zest. Mix in orange juice and knead until it forms a ball. Place on a floured board and knead for 5 minutes.

Form into small balls, cover with a warm damp dish towel. and let rest for 5 minutes.

Roll out each ball into a round tortilla shape, as thin as you can.

Heat oil in heavy skillet until hot. Place several layers of paper towels on a plate.
Carefully fry buñuelos, one at a time. Fry the first side until it puffs up, or about 8-10 seconds. Turn it over and briefly fry the other side until it stops puffing up. Using tongs, hold the buñuelo at an angle above the pan for a few seconds to drain excess oil.  Place on the paper towels to soak up oil for a few minutes,

then roll in cinnamon sugar. Excellent with coffee or Mexican hot chocolate.

¡Feliz Año Nuevo!  Happy New Year!

Tamales de pollo y de frijoles – Chicken and Vegetarian Bean Tamales

My children’s Abuelita Conchita made tamales every Christmas. After marrying her son, I do too. She visited us on our first Thanksgiving together and taught me how to make them with our leftover turkey.

I’ve been tweaking the recipe ever since.  I now make them with boneless chicken breasts with a few legs for flavor. The boneless breast eliminates the risk of choking on a rib bone, which are easy to miss while shredding the chicken. I also make vegetarian tamales using frijoles pintos, roasted chili and jack cheese.

I make my masa with olive oil, with a bit of chicken fat and bacon grease for flavor. That kind of balances the heart-healthy effects of the olive oil.

tamales with tomatoesMakes 40 medium tamales.

Ingredients for filling: Some stores sell the dried chilies in cellophane packets, so I am including the equivalents here. Also be aware that some locations will call the poblano chilies fresh pasilla chilies.

16 cups of water (To use some of the broth for frijoles, increase the water to 24 cups.)

2 chopped onions

8 minced garlic cloves

2 Tb chipotle powder

2 Tb cumin powder (comino)

2 tsp cocoa powder

2 Tb dried oregano

6 cups diced Roma (plum) tomatoes or a 28 oz can (or two 14 oz cans) diced tomatoes. Frie roasted tomatoes are nice.

2 green bell peppers

2 Tb salt to taste

6 dark green poblano chilies (sometimes sold as fresh pasilla)  (add 4 more for filling for vegetarian tamales)

18 dried pasilla chilies (3 cellophane packets)

6 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves and 6 chicken legs

Heat a large pot with the water and bring to a boil.

There’s the easy way to add chili to the broth, which my mother-in-law did, by adding chili powder to it.

3 kinds of peppersThen there’s the labor-intensive way, adding fresh poblano and dried pasilla chilies. Pasilla chilies are dark and wrinkled, like giant raisins (pasa is raisin in Spanish) They make for a more intense, earthy flavor. I use a cast iron comal (coMAL), which is a shallow frying pan to toast the chilies and peppers to intensify their flavor. I wear thin disposable latex gloves when I work with the dried chilies and poblanos. This way I emerge from the process without stained and sore hands and can rub my eyes afterwards without fear of blinding myself.

toasting pasilla chilisRinse the dried chilies and pat dry. Toast them lightly on the comal. If you don’t have a comal, use a heavy frying pan. Sometimes the  pasilla will blow up like a balloon! Remove them to a plate while they are still soft.

Wear gloves for this part: Discard the stems and some of the seed pods from the chilies and but keep some seeds for spiciness, depending on your taste. Ladle 3 cups of the boiling water into a medium saucepan. Boil the chilies for 10 minutes, then soak them for 20 minutes until they soften.  Chop the chilies  and add them along with the soaking water to the broth.

While the pasilla chilies are boiling and soaking, prepare the rest of the broth ingredients:

blistered pasilla chilisWearing gloves, Cut out the stems and scrape out the ribs and some of seeds of the poblano and discard (add a few poblano seeds or ribs to make the broth spicier if you want.) Do the same for bell peppers. Cut into strips and blister them on the comal. Set aside poblano strips from 4 poblanos to insert whole into vegetarian tamales. Coarsely chop up the rest and add to the water.

Add all ingredients except salt and chicken, and cook for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. If making Frijoles pintos, pour out 8 cups into a separate pot.

For vegetarian tamales: Salt the broth to taste. You will use it for mixing in the masa and making sauce.

For chicken tamales: Salt the broth and bring it to a boil. Add chicken legs  and cook for 45 minutes. Cut chicken breasts into large chunks and add to the broth, cooking for 20 minutes, until done. Remove chicken from water with slotted spoon, reserving broth.

Drain broth through a sieve into a large bowl. Place the chilies, peppers and onions and tomatoes in another bowl, with enough broth to make it soupy enough to blend into a thick sauce. Blend in batches to make the chili sauce and set aside.

Let chicken cool until you can handle it, then remove the bones from the legs and break off the cartilage at the ends of the bones to expose the marrow (I use a kitchen shears). Bring the strained broth back to a boil. Return the bones to the soup and let it cook at medium heat while you shred the chicken by hand. The marrow will add great flavor and nutrients to the broth.

Refrigerate  the broth until the fat solidifies. Skim the fat from it. (If you are short on time, use a fat skimming cup.) If you don’t have enough fat from this broth, you can add chicken fat from homemade chicken soup. We will add  the fat to the masa for flavor. Reserve 5 cups of broth for the masa. Reduce any leftover broth in a saucepan to add to the sauce for the tamales.

Pour 2 cups chili sauce into a skillet and heat it Add half the shredded chicken. Simmer and stir until chicken absorbs most of the sauce, but is not too dry. You should be able to see some sauce between the meat. Make the second batch, (I use 2 skillets at a time) then store in refrigerator until ready to use. It’s best to make this part the day before so that the chicken will absorb the sauce while it sits overnight. If you don’t have time, just let it cool in the freezer or fridge.

This is plenty of chicken. If you don’t want to turn it all into tamales,  they are great in tacos or enchiladas.

Vegetarian tamales: Cook  Frijoles pintos the day before. Roast 4 more fresh poblano chilies on a grill or heavy frying pan until the skin chars. Cool in a covered container to aid in peeling, then peel charred skin, discarding skin, seeds and stem, and cut into strips. You can use canned chilies to save time, but I am giving you the fresh recipe, which has a much more earthy and intense flavor. Slice jack cheese.

Preparing the tamales:

Soak an 18 oz. package of hojas (OH-hass) (dried corn husks) in warm water in a large pot (such as the tamale steamer) until soft, about 1 hour. I put the steamer pan on top of the hojas and weight it down with a large bowl of water. Rinse them well afterward and remove the corn silk.

Masa

Most of the Mexicans I know with swear by lard, the traditional fat used to make tamales. I make my masa with heart-healthy olive oil or coconut oil, combined with a couple of spoonfuls of chicken fat and bacon grease for flavorful chicken tamales. You can substitute 1/2 cup + 1 Tb (5 Tb) chicken fat if you want Kosher tamales. I use only olive oil or coconut oil for vegetarian tamales.

I make my masa in 2 batches, so I can fit it in my electric mixer. I’m giving the 1/2 measurements in parentheses.

Masa for 40 tamales (20):

7  (3 1/2) cups masa harina (corn flour) for tamales. This is coarser ground than the masa harina that is used for tortillas.
1 Tb + 1 tsp (2 tsp) salt
1 Tb (1 1/2 tsp) baking powder
2 Tb (1 Tb) paprika
6 1/2 to 7 cups (3 1/4 to 3 1/2 cups) reserved warm broth. If you run out of broth, add some chili powder to warm water

For chicken tamales: 1 1/2 cups (3/4 cup) olive oil or coconut oil

1/4 cup plus 2 Tb (3 Tb) solidified chicken fat.

1/4 cup (2 Tb) solidified bacon grease

For Kosher tamales, use 1/2 cup plus 2 Tb & 1 tsp chicken fat (5 Tb) and no bacon grease.

For vegetarian tamales:

2 cups (1 cup) olive oil or coconut oil

Directions:

Mix masa harina with salt. Sift in baking powder and paprika. Mix well.

For chicken tamales: Beat coconut oil, chicken fat, and bacon grease in mixmaster on high until fluffy.

For vegetarian tamales: Beat coconut oil or  olive oil on high

Add  broth to the dry ingredients, mixing with a spoon, then with your hands until the dry ingredients are moistened. Add about a quarter of the masa to the oil and beat well, then add another quarter of the masa, repeating until all masa is incorporated. Beat until dough has a fluffy and moist consistency.

Cover the bowl and refrigerate the masa for an hour or so, then return it to the mixmaster. Beat it again, adding more broth if necessary to make a soft dough.

ball of masaIt should not stick to your fingers, and you should be able to form a smooth ball of masa. If it’s too sticky, add a little masa.

Assembling the Tamales

Now you are ready to assemble the tamales. This is best done with your family and/or friends helping – a tamalada.

Spread the masa in a thin layer on the wide end of the hoja, leaving  about 3 inches bare on the pointy end and a small border around the sides.. You can use the back of a spoon, or your fingers. I find it works best if your fingers are moist and not too full of masa.

For chicken tamales, put in a spoonful of the shredded prepared chicken. Make it into a long rectangle.

For vegetarian tamales, place a spoonful of beans without liquid, a strip of chili and a piece of jack cheese. Vegans can skip the cheese, or use vegan cheese.

fold in one side

Fold the other side in so they overlap,

then fold up the pointy end.

Tear thin strips from several hojas to use for tying the tamales. I use the torn or ugly hojas. Tie tamale with the strip of hoja.

cooked tamales

When all tamales are assembled, heat water in the bottom of a tamale pot or large steamer Put a dime in the water. Add the tamales with the folded end down and the tied end up on the steamer tray. Cover the steamer, and cook on low heat for 1 ½ hours. The dime will rattle in the water. If the water runs out, the dime will stop rattling and you must add more water or the tamales will burn!

When the masa separates easily from the corn husk, the tamales are done. Uncover the pot, turn off the flame and let dry out for 15 minutes or until you can’t wait any longer to eat them!

Unwrap and enjoy with sliced Roma tomatoes. Warm the reduced broth mixed with leftover chili sauce and pour over the tamales, or top with Frijoles pintos.

Feliz Navidad!

serving tamales with sliced tomatoes