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Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Layered Taco Dip

I had planned to post this recipe during the Christmas holidays but everyone knows how that week can be full of the best of intentions that aren't met.  But here comes the Super Bowl with lots of folks planning parties. This dip is great any time of year and would be a hit if you have a party this weekend. 

For years taco dip has been our unconventional, but tasty, Christmas Eve dinner and it has become such a favorite that we won't even consider other options. It was during our years in Bahrain that we started eating this but even earlier I started fixing dinner on the 24th of December to help ease holiday pressures on Colette who is a bit of a Scrooge and needs the help. Even though our nest has been empty for a long time now, our kids still insist on this meal if we are together for Christmas Eve. It is basically a combination of the elements of an American taco layered on a tray or a glass baking pan. I have tweaked it slightly over the years to adapt to our changing tastes but I'll include original ingredients as well.


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Layered Taco Dip


Serves 6-8 as a main dish and many more as a party dip

1 pound good Mexican chorizo (originally ground beef and a McCormick taco seasoning mix)
2 to 2 1/2 c refried beans (the best are homemade)
guacamole, using 2 avocados
1 1/2 c sour cream
3 sliced scallions
1 chopped green pepper (you may use some chopped jalapeno if you like)
1 can California black olives, sliced (you may use Kalamata olives if you prefer)
8-12 oz. cheddar cheese or mix of cheddar and jack, shredded
iceberg or leafy lettuce, chopped, enough to cover your dish 1/2-3/4 inch thick
1/2 c chopped cilantro
8 oz. cherry or grape tomatoes, quartered (or you may use a large tomato, although the flavor and texture will be rather poor)
tortilla chips




Brown the meat (if you are using ground beef, add the seasoning package and follow directions). In a 9 X 13 glass pan or on a large platter, spread a layer of refried beans. Top with a layer of meat. Spread sour cream over the top and then spread the guacamole. Layer everything else in the order given. See photos below. All amounts are flexible and optional. Use whatever you like. You may want to consider using crema instead of sour cream and crumbled queso fresco instead of cheddar or jack.

Serve immediately passing tortilla chips at the table.


Many thanks to Sam Peterson for taking the photos.
















Friday, January 24, 2014

Orange-Chipotle Roasted Sweet Potatoes

A couple of years back I won a cookbook on The Washington Post Free Range weekly chat. Titled Autumn Gatherings, it has become one of my favorites and is starting to show considerable signs of wear. Here is one of the recipes that I have returned to often each fall and winter season.



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Orange-Chipotle Roasted Sweet Potatoes


Adapted from: Autumn Gatherings by Rick Rodgers
Serves 6 to 8

3 pounds sweet potatoes (Rodgers is a southerner so calls for yams, the same veg in this case)
3 T olive oil
2 T unsalted butter, softened
1 T bitter orange marmalade
grated zest of 1 large orange
1/4 teas ground chipotle chile
salt

Preheat your oven to 400F with the rack placed in the top third. (Rodgers suggests lining a baking sheet with foil for easy clean up. I can't bring myself to waste the foil, so I just wash the sheet.)

Cut each sweet potato in half, then crosswise into 3/4 inch-thick half rounds. Toss the sweet potatoes on the baking sheet with the oil and spread into a single layer.

Bake, turning the sweets once or more, until they are tender and lightly browned, about 30 minutes. (I admit I've forgotten to turn them and they were fine.)

Meanwhile, mash the butter, marmalade, zest, and ground chipotle in a small bowl and set aside at room temperature. (This step can be done up to three hours ahead.)

Remove the sweets from the oven. Dollop teaspoons of the orange butter over the sweet potatoes and stir gently to coat. Return them to the oven and bake until the orange butter reduces to a glaze, about 5 minutes. Season lightly with salt to taste. Serve.

Notes:

The sweets can be prepared (prior to the glazing step) up to eight hours ahead, cooled, and stored on the baking sheet at room temperature. Reheat for 5 minutes, also at 400F, before adding the orange butter.

If you can find only whole dried chipotles you can make your own chipotle powder by grinding pieces in a dedicated spice grinder (I have 3 old blade coffee grinders that I use only for spices--look for them at garage sales and thrift shops). You may also substitute 1/2 teas ground ancho (you can grind that, too), or, in a pinch, 1/2-1 teas chili powder.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Brownie Sundaes

I've never been one to make resolutions in January. Call it my rebellious side, perhaps. I prefer to believe that change is possible any time of the year. So during a time when many people are thinking about living in a more healthy way, let me tempt you with my favorite brownie sundae.

Brownie sundaes have always been a top choice. There's something about perfectly plain vanilla ice cream combined with a chewy, chocolate-y brownie, smothered in chocolate sauce. At restaurants I find them a little sweet but with this homemade bittersweet sauce and raspberries, these sundaes reach new levels of perfection. Fresh or frozen berries both work well.

Of course there are lots of brownie recipes that will work. I'm sharing a zucchini brownie recipe here, good for using up frozen zucchini, and brownie bites would also be tasty, with their additional crust. Combine your ingredients for a sundae of your choice!



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Bittersweet Chocolate Sauce


Source: Cooks Illustrated

3/4 c heavy cream
3 T light corn syrup
3 T unsalted butter, cut into three pieces
pinch table salt
6 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped fine

Bring heavy cream, corn syrup, butter, and salt to boil in small nonreactive saucepan over medium-high heat. Off heat, add chocolate while gently swirling saucepan. Cover pan and let stand until chocolate is melted, about 5 minutes. Uncover and whisk gently until combined.

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Chocolate Chip Zucchini Brownies


Adapted from Two Peas and Their Pod

1 1/2 c granulated sugar
1/2 c canola oil
1 c all-purpose flour
1 c whole wheat flour
1/4 c cocoa
2 c shredded zucchini
2 teas vanilla extract
1 teas salt
1 1/2 teas baking soda
1 c dark chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease an 8x11 baking pan with cooking spray and set aside. (The brownies are better in an 8x11 pan but they will also work in a 9x13 pan.)

In a stand mixer, combine sugar, canola oil, and flour until mixture resembles wet sand. While mixing, on low, add cocoa, zucchini, vanilla extract, salt and baking soda. Mix until well combined. Stir in the chocolate chips.

Pour brownie batter into prepared pan and bake for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Set the pan on a wire rack to cool. Enjoy!